, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

War_The_World_Is_a_Ghetto_Wikipedia (27 APR 2015)LUMPENPROLETARIAT—A new study [1] featured in the New York Times last week provides evidence confirming beneficial socioeconomic outcomes resulting from children moving out of ghettos and into neighbourhoods with less concentration of poverty.

This may seem to be an obvious assertion.  However, previously, Congress’ antipoverty experiment entitled Moving to Opportunity (c. 1990s) had given vouchers to help poor families move to neighbourhoods with less concentration of poverty and had “awarded them on a random basis, so researchers could study the effects.” [2]  Unfortunately, due to methodological limitations, that study yielded “deeply disappointing” results.  “Parents who received the vouchers did not seem to earn more in later years than otherwise similar adults, and children did not seem to do better in school. The program’s apparent failure has haunted social scientists and policy makers, making poverty seem all the more intractable.” [3]

Fortunately, the new study published by Dr. Raj Chetty (b. 1979) and Dr. Nathaniel Hendren was able to analyse “more recent, richer data”.   “In addition to studying the outcomes of more than five million children who moved, Mr. Chetty and Mr. Hendren revisited the subjects of the Moving to Opportunity experiment.” [4]  Dr. Chetty and Dr. Hendren also worked with one of the original researchers of the earlier study, Dr. Lawrence Katz (b. 1959).  They “concluded that children who moved before they were teenagers did indeed benefit economically”:

“In both studies, the younger children were when they moved, the better they did.  Children were less likely to become single parents when they grew up and were more likely to go to college and to earn more.  The original research was not able to follow the economic outcomes of younger children because not enough time had passed, Mr. Katz said.” [5]

These important, econometrically rigorous, findings argue for new approaches to housing policy.  Julian Castro (b. 1974), the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) “said he was excited by the new data” because HUD had “been planning to reallocate funding so that some people moving to higher-cost neighborhoods would receive larger vouchers.  Currently, the value of vouchers tends to be constant across a metropolitan area.” [6]

But simply moving some families out of ghettos will not solve the problem of poverty.  “For all the benefits that moves can bring, they are not a solution to poverty, said people who have seen the new paper as well as the researchers.” [7]  As working-class Compton, California-native Kendrick Lamar raps on “Momma,” from his first number one album, To Pimp a Butterfly, about his rags-to-riches experiences:

“I can attempt to enlighten you without frightenin’ you
If you resist, I’ll back off; go catch a flight or two
But if you pick destiny over rest in peace
Than be an advocate; go tell your homies, especially
To come back home”

HUD Secretary Julian Castro, of Chicano heritage, agrees with Dr. Chetty and Dr. Hendren:  “‘We can’t walk away from them,’ Mr. Castro, the housing secretary said.  ‘We need a two-pronged approach.'” [8]  Relevantly, on “Mortal Man”, Kendrick Lamar (whose sociopolitically conscious lyrics seem to be underappreciated by commercial radio, despite a clear hunger on the streets for such articulation of ghetto life) recites confessional prose:

“I didn’t wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers
Until I came home
But that didn’t stop survivor’s guilt
Going back and forth trying to convince myself the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting the continuous war back in the city, I was entering a new one
A war that was based on apartheid and discrimination
Made me wanna go back to the city and tell the homies what I learned
The word was respect
Just because you wore a different gang colour than mines
Doesn’t mean I can’t respect you as a black man
Forgetting all the pain and hurt we caused each other in these streets
If I respect you, we unify and stop the enemy from killing us”

All those of us who make it up out of the ghetto must not just contribute to white flight, black flight, or brown flight.  We need to get on up out of the ghetto, only to go back home and help our loved ones trapped by the capitalist mode of production, which depends upon a redundant population to repress labour and increase capital’s rate of exploitation of the proletariat.



THE NEW YORK TIMES—In the wake of the Los Angeles riots more than 20 years ago, Congress created an anti-poverty experiment called Moving to Opportunity. It gave vouchers to help poor families move to better neighborhoods and awarded them on a random basis, so researchers could study the effects.

The results were deeply disappointing. Parents who received the vouchers did not seem to earn more in later years than otherwise similar adults, and children did not seem to do better in school. The program’s apparent failure has haunted social scientists and policy makers, making poverty seem all the more intractable.

Now, however, a large new study is about to overturn the findings of Moving to Opportunity. Based on the earnings records of millions of families that moved with children, it finds that poor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere.

The feelings heard across Baltimore’s recent protests — of being trapped in poverty — seem to be backed up by the new data. Among the nation’s 100 largest counties, the one where children face the worst odds of escaping poverty is the city of Baltimore, the study found.

Learn more at THE NEW YORK TIMES.


[1]  Chetty, Raj, and Nathaniel Hendren. 2015. “The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects and County-Level Estimates”, http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/hendren/files/nbhds_paper.pdf

A summarised six-page version of the full 143-page Chetty and Hendren (2015) study is available here.

[2]  David Leonhardt, Amanda Cox, and Claire Cain Miller, “Change of Address Offers Pathway Out of Poverty: Study Finds Surprises on Upward Mobility,” The New York Times, May 4, 2015, accessed May 11, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/04/upshot/an-atlas-of-upward-mobility-shows-paths-out-of-poverty.html?_r=0 .

[3]  Ibid., 2

[4]  Ibid., 3

[5]  Ibid.

[6]  Ibid., 4

[7]  Ibid., 5

[8]  Ibid., 5